How To Dispose of Paint Thinner and Similar Waste


How to dispose of paint thinner and similar waste? This hazardous waste must be disposed of at a hazardous waste collection point or via a hazardous waste collection vehicle. Disposal via the drain or the toilet is absolutely forbidden!

Thinners always contain toxic contaminants

Thinners include turpentine, paints, oils, disinfectants, photographic chemicals, spirits, varnishes, pesticides, wood preservatives and cleaning agents. They all contain more or less harsh pollutants which, although they fulfill their purpose in practical use, pose a great risk apart from these intended uses.

Simply inhaling the vapors can cause long-term health damage. Therefore, great care should always be taken when handling thinners. This applies in particular to disposal: thinner has no place in normal household waste, but disposal via the drain or toilet is also prohibited for good reason – if thinner gets into the wastewater, it can cause great damage there, because most sewage treatment plants are involved overwhelmed by such harsh toxins, not to mention the serious risk of groundwater contamination.

Thinner must be disposed of as hazardous waste

Thinner in any form must be disposed of as hazardous waste. The individual municipalities offer special collection points for this purpose. Sometimes there are even mobile pollutant collection vehicles on the road that accept such hazardous waste on site.

In most cases, no separate fee is charged for the delivery of small quantities of pollutants. Additional costs may only be incurred for large quantities.

The exact conditions vary depending on the region and should be inquired about in good time from the responsible authority. The best way to dispose of the thinner is in the original packaging, which is sealed as airtight as possible so that no toxic vapors can escape.

If disposal in the original packaging is not possible, great care must be taken when decanting: hands and face should be protected, and handling thinners in closed rooms is not advisable. This is best done outdoors or at least with very good ventilation.

Even low-emission thinners are hazardous waste

The high level of pollution from thinners is a problem known to manufacturers and has been addressed for some time. In the meantime, more and more low-emission thinners can be found on the market, among other things also marked with the Blue Angel for better environmental compatibility.

However, caution is also required here: Even thinners that carry the Blue Angel as a certificate are far from being free of harmful substances. They are low in pollutants and therefore pollute the environment less, but still have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.

That’s why it’s important and sensible to only buy as much thinner as is really needed – also due to the limited storage options, thinner is not something that should be bought in stock in the long term. Cloths and rags soaked with thinner should not be left lying around, as there is always a risk of self-ignition.

Dispose of paint & paint buckets – where to put the leftovers?

After painting or renovating, the question often arises: what to do with the leftover paint or the buckets of paint? Paint buckets and the leftovers usually end up in basements, garages or storage rooms. But should you store the paint cans or rather dispose of the paint directly?

Paint and paint residues are so-called problematic substances

Paints and varnishes – especially in their liquid form – are so-called problematic substances. This is what waste is called that can be dangerous for you and your environment because of its pollutant content.

Keep leftover paint for possible cosmetic corrections

With some paint residues, especially wall paints or tinted emulsion paints, it is advisable to keep a small amount. This way you can make small corrections later. Storing leftover paint correctly is not difficult and can easily be done, this also applies to used brushes. Would you like to use up your leftover paint? Getting creative helps: add some tinting paint and create a beautiful picture on canvas or wood.

Dispose of wall and dispersion paint

Emulsion paint is a white or tintable wall and ceiling paint for indoor and outdoor use. Often made from an emulsion of fillers based on plastics, binders, dyes or pigments, it is often also called plastic dispersion paint.

The synthetic substances and oils processed in them are usually not exactly environmentally friendly. Therefore, a half-full bucket should not simply end up in the garbage. You should take liquid emulsion paint to the mobile waste collection facility (explained below). Dried dispersion paints on tools and in the bucket is not a problem: the paint bucket belongs in the yellow bag as long as there is no more liquid paint in it.

Dispose of empty paint cans

If the paint bucket is already empty because all the paint was used in painting, it can simply be placed in a yellow sack.

Dispose of old paint cans with paint residues

Disposing of dried paint saves money. If there are any remains of the wall paint left in the bucket, you must allow the paint residue to dry out. Because dried residues can be disposed of in the residual waste. You should not inhale the vapors produced during the drying process.

Therefore, put the opened paint buckets in the fresh air to avoid odors in the house. This allows the ingredients (mainly water) to evaporate and the paint to dry out completely. To speed up the drying process, you can add some sand. When the paint has dried, it belongs in the normal household waste and the empty bucket in the yellow bag.

Never just throw away leftover paint!

Liquid paints, varnishes or solvent-based brush cleaners and the like must not simply be disposed of down the toilet, sink or gully. Such liquids must never get into the sewage system and there are two good reasons for this:

Explosive or toxic substances can form in the sewage system.

The chemicals are not completely removed in the sewage treatment plant and can thus get into the environment.

Did you know that even non-toxic substances in wastewater can cause major problems? According to the Hamburg city cleaning department, one liter of waste oil is contaminated, e.g. B. a million liters of drinking water.

Problematic substances are considered to be particularly hazardous to health and the environment and therefore belong in the hazardous waste. Simply take your leftover paint to a materials depot or to a hazardous waste collection vehicle.

Dispose of paint in the recycling or materials yard

In normal household quantities, you can hand in problematic materials to all recycling or materials yards. The disposal of problematic materials is often free of charge there, but costs can sometimes arise for some waste.

Pollutant Mobile: Mobile collection of problematic substances

Some local city cleaning services offer a very special service: So-called mobile collections of problematic substances are – as the name suggests – municipal vehicles, mostly trucks or larger station wagons, which come very close to you.

Small quantities of problematic substances in well-marked containers are to be handed in there free of charge. Depending on the quantity and region, there may also be costs per liter of volume of a container. It is best to find out about costs, deadlines and addresses for this type of disposal from your local waste disposal company.

 Some pollutant vehicles completely rule out the delivery of certain problematic substances in advance. Here the path does not lead past the material yard.

What are problematic substances?

Other problematic substances, which by the way do not belong in the dustbin, are:

  • Paint and varnish residues, acids ,anti-rust agents, stain removers and impregnating agents, stains, plant and wood preservatives, shoe polish, adhesives, and waxes
  • Car batteries (deliver the car batteries to the recycling centers)
  • Fluorescent tubes, energy-saving lamps, thermometers
  • Solvents and thinners such as turpentine, petrol, acetone brake fluid, and nitro thinner 
  • Cosmetics and medicines (you can also dispose of medicines in the residual waste)
  • weed and pesticides
  • Chemicals, toxins and salts
  • Other leftovers from the types of waste mentioned
  • Eternit flower boxes


Paint and varnish thinners, as well as similar waste, are chemicals that not only pollute the environment, but can also be dangerous. Thus, if thinner is left over after the renovation, it is recommended not to dispose of it in the household waste.

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